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Definition of Bismuth

As a native metal, bismuth has been known since the Middle Ages. A German monk named Basil Valentine first described it in 1450. Bismuth is often found uncombined with other elements, forming indistinct crystals, often in parallel groupings. It is hard, brittle, and lustrous. It is also found in grains and as foliated masses. Silver-white, it usually has a reddish tinge that distinguishes it. Specimens may have an iridescent tarnish. Bismuth is found in hydrothermal veins and in pegmatites and is often associated with ores of tin, lead, or copper, from which it is separated as a by-product. Bismuth expands slightly when it solidifies, making its alloys useful in the manufacture of metal castings with sharp detailing. Bismuth salts are often used as soothing agents for digestive disorders.

Name: From the German weisse masse, later wismuth, white mass.

Mineral Group: Arsenic group.

Cell Data: Space Group: R3m. a = 4.546 c = 11.860 Z = 6


Chalcopyrite, arsenopyrite, pyrrhotite, pyrite, cobaltite, nickeline, breithauptite, skutterudite, safflorite, l¨ollingite, bismuthinite, silver, cubanite, molybdenite, sphalerite, galena, scheelite, wolframite, calcite, barite, quartz.

Chemical Properties of Bismuth

Chemical Classification Native
Chemical Composition Bi

Physical Properties of Bismuth

Color Reddish-white to creamy-white; tarnishes iridescent pinkish, yellowish or bluish
Streak Silver-white
Luster Metallic
Cleavage Perfect Perfect {0001}, Good {1011}, poor {1014}
Diaphaneity Opaque
Mohs Hardness 2–2.5 on Mohs scale
Crystal System Trigonal
Tenacity Sectile
Density 9.7 – 9.83 g/cm3 (Measured)    9.753 g/cm3 (Calculated)

Optical Properties of Bismuth

Type Anisotropic
Color / Pleochroism Weak
Twinning Polysynthetic


In hydrothermal veins with ores of Co, Ni, Ag, and Sn; in pegmatites and topaz-bearing Sn–W quartz veins.

Uses Area

Bismuth is found free in nature and in minerals such as bismuthinite (Bi2S3) and bizmit (Bi2O3). After brewing in the bismuth menu, and obtaining refined lead, copper, tin, silver and gold by-products, the largest bismuth deposits are found in Bolivia.

Pure bismuth is a light pink white, brittle metal. For low melting alloys at bismuth level, a lead is mixed with other metals such as tin, iron or cadmium. These alloys using automatic fire extinguishing systems, fire extinguishing systems and electrical fuses.

A bismuth oxide (Bi2O3), a bismuth compound, is used as a yellow pigment in paints and cosmetics. Bismuth oxychloride (BiOCl) is used to make a pigment known as bismuth white. Bismuth carbonate (Bi2 (CO3) 3) is used to treat diarrhea and gastric ulcers.

Bismuth Facts

  • Although no one was discovered, it was not until 1753 that Claude Geoffroy discovered a separate element. Bismuth was among the top ten metal groups discovered and classified.
  • Bismuth crystals grow in a strange, stair-shaped formation due to the greater growth rate from the inside at the outer edges.
  • Bismuth has one of the lowest levels of thermal conductivity.
  • Bismuth is one of the few elements having a higher density than the liquid state solid state.
  • Since bismuth expands visibly when it becomes solid, it is used to make alloys with metals to compensate for shrinkage.
  • However, the half-life of bi-209 is one billion times longer than the predicted age of the universe.Bi-213 was investigated for the treatment of leukemia patients because of the rate of decay of another of the bismuth isotopes.
  • Bismuth is twice as common under the Earth’s crust.
  • The main ores containing bismuth are bismuthinite and bismuth.
  • About 9,000 tonnes of bismuth is produced and produced annually.
  • China, Peru and Mexico are the leading suppliers of bismuth.
  • About 75% of bismuth produced by these three countries comes from China.
  • Bismuth is difficult to recycle due to the dispersed nature of its use in production.
  • Drugs, cosmetics, paints and bullets made from Bizmutt would not be able to be recycled due to technology constraints.
  • In 2010, the US used less than 900 tons of bismuth; more than 60% of these uses go to one of four applications that cannot be recycled.
  • Starting in 2014, water systems will need to be lead-free and bismuth is currently being tried to replace.


From numerous localities, but typically as a minor accessory mineral. From Altenberg, Schneeberg, and Annaberg, Saxony, Germany. At J´achymov (Joachimsthal), Czech Republic. From near Villanueva de C´ordoba, C´ordoba Province, Spain. In the Dolcoath and other mines, Cornwall, England. From Uncia, Chorolque, Llallagua, and Tazna, Potos´ı, Bolivia, economically important. An 11 kg nugget found at Velaque, La Paz, Bolivia. In the Mt. Arthur mine, Queensland, and from Kingsgate, New South Wales, Australia. At Natsukidani, Oita Prefecture, Japan, large crystals. From Cobalt, Ontario, Canada.


Bonewitz, R. (2012). Rocks and minerals. 2nd ed. London: DK Publishing.

Handbookofmineralogy.org. (2019). Handbook of Mineralogy. [online] Available at: http://www.handbookofmineralogy.org [Accessed 4 Mar. 2019].

Mindat.org. (2019). Bismuth: Mineral information, data and localities.. [online] Available at: https://www.mindat.org/ [Accessed. 2019].

Smith.edu. (2019). Geosciences | Smith College. [online] Available at: https://www.smith.edu/academics/geosciences [Accessed 15 Mar. 2019].